Jan
31
2011
This Week’s PGA Tour Confidential: Farmers Insurance Open
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour Confidential

Bubba Watson reacts to draining a birdie putt on the 18th at Torrey Pines

Happy Monday from the Phoenix Open media center (aka the Cart Barn!). Check out the SI Golf Group’s lively discussion posted at Golf.com. Topics this week: Bubba’s win, Phil’s close call, Tiger’s woes, Daly’s whining and the LPGA’s official charity tournament. Here are some excerpts to get the discussion started in the comments below — first, the thrilling finish at Torrey Pines:

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: The Farmers Insurance Open was promoted as the Tiger & Phil Show, but come Sunday the role of Woods was shared by two understudies — long-knocker Bubba Watson and the rookie sensation from Venezuela, Jhonattan “Johnny” Vegas. Watson birdied the last for his second PGA Tour victory, denying runner-up Mickelson his fourth triumph at Torrey Pines. Anybody feel cheated by this result? Or are we learning to love the post-Tiger landscape?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: All in all, I’d say it was a much, much better show this year than it was last year, when Ben Crane won despite muffing a short putt on 17. It came down to power golf, as it does on the South, and Watson birdied all four par 5s, while Mickelson birdied only three of the four. That was the difference. Or that and the fact that Phil’s eagle putt on 13 decided to come back out of the hole.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I loved it! Jhonny Vegas has been a revelation. I just wish he could keep his ball dry a little better. And SIGOLF+ will have a very revealing story on Bubba in this week’s special Equipment Issue.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Like how Bubba has TEN wraps of tape under the top hand of his driver and EIGHT under the bottom hand? He turns a Ping G15 into a Sequoia.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: What more could you want in a golf tourney? Star power, exciting youngsters, a nail-biting finish, plus the enduring psychodrama that is Tiger. This week was a blast from start to finish.

Sounds like everyone enjoyed the finale, including CBS’ ratings, which increased by 54% compared to last year. Saturday’s coverage also experienced a boost, up 47%.

Next, let’s turn to the controversial LPGA Founders Cup:

Garrity: In LPGA news, Suzann Pettersen announced that she will skip the $1.3 million R.R. Donnelley Founders Cup, a new tournament that diverts its prize money to the LPGA Foundation. Pettersen came off as callous and ungrateful, until you learned that only a half million of that nominal purse is actually going to the Foundation — giving Donnelley, in effect, a massive discount on its sponsorship. Who should we boo? The LPGA stars who refuse to play the event pro bono, or Commissioner Mike Whan for Wal-Marting his product?

Evans: I’ve interviewed Suzann Pettersen, and I think she resents a little that as a world-class golfer she can’t have the same future and entitlements as her male counterparts, who are never asked to do these kinds of thing. I think we should boo a culture that doesn’t support women’s athletics. Ultimately, Whan and Pettersen want something they can’t get — a strong women’s tour.

Van Sickle: All professional athletics are entertainment. The audience doesn’t find women’s golf as entertaining as men’s, just as it doesn’t find men’s golf as entertaining as the NBA, MLB or NFL. It’s not the public’s job to support any sport. It’s that sport’s job to sell itself to the public. If the U.S. can’t support the LPGA and its schedule, that’s the marketplace at work. It’s called capitalism.

Evans: Vans, you’re probably right on this, in terms of what the marketplace calls for, but it’s vitally important to the growth of the game for young girls to have dreams of playing professional golf.

Van Sickle: I agree with you completely. But if the market doesn’t want it, the market doesn’t want it. See Arena Football, the USFL, and the NFL’s league in Europe (whatever it was called) for details. Even the WNBA might not be in business if the NBA wasn’t propping it up.

Wei: I just spoke with Paige Mackenzie, who finished 93rd on the money list last year. She’s in favor of the Founders Cup: “I think what the LPGA is trying to do is unprecedented in modern day professional golf, and it’s a shame that people are taking a charitable event and making it a negative for business strategy instead of a positive of what a group of women are willing to do by donating their time to raise money that will leave this game better than it is today.”

When I mentioned that pro golfers do a lot of charity in their personal time, she replied, “Yes, and we all get appearance fees to do it, and it’s usually only one day. It’s pretty amazing to see 144 golfers getting together to donate a week of time; it should be sending a really positive message.”

What do you think? Is it a minor league move to ask the ladies to play for free? Several LPGA stars, including Morgan Pressel, Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer, have expressed their skepticism.

Just for fun, here’s a gratuitous video of Bubba Watson hitting a drive with yours truly watching by the tee box. Merf came across it in a random YouTube search for Bubba’s wing and passed it along when he saw me in the background. File this one under random spottings:

The video must have been taken during a practice round at Liberty National for The Barclays in August ’09! I was walking with Ryan Moore, who was playing with Bubba, Aaron Baddeley and DA Points. Anyway, I just got a kick out of the complete randomness, so thought I’d gratuitously share.